The Penn Institute for Urban Research 2019 photo contest on Urban Informality

Application Deadline:April 18, 2019.

The Penn Institute for Urban Research invites you to participate in a photo contest on the theme of urban informality. In particular, we are interested in photos that capture the ways that people in urban areas create or use informal systems to survive and thrive. Photos might highlight one or multiple aspects of informality—in housing, work, transportation, food production, education—or any other facet or facets of urban life.

Informality is economic or social activity that takes place outside of formally regulated structures. Such activities are not necessarily illegal, though they may be. Some simply exist outside of the framework of a given country’s codified laws. While informality is often discussed in the context of developing countries as in unregulated labor markets, small-scale commercial enterprises, subsistence farming or slum dwellings, it also operates in the world’s richest and most developed countries. In the U.S. for example, unlicensed food trucks or street vendors are ubiquitous on some city streets, and homeowners hold furniture sales in their front yards.

We welcome photos that capture informality in any of its many forms, and from any corner of the world.

To enter: Tweet your image to Penn IUR (@PennIUR). Include a short description of the photo, the date and location of photo, and the hashtag #IURPhotoComp. (If you do not use social media, email your submission to [email protected].)

Additional information:


Ethical considerations: Respect for your subjects and the communities you are documenting should always be your first consideration when taking photographs. Culturally sensitive photography requires:

  • considering the emotional, psychological, political, economic, cultural, social or physical circumstances of your subject before taking a photograph;
  • asking for consent before taking a photo;
  • taking into consideration privacy and confidentiality; and
  • giving respect and context to images.

For more specific guidance on culturally sensitive photography visit the UNC Ethical Photography website. For additional information about general ethical guidelines for photographers, read the National Press Photographers Association Code of Ethics.

File Submission: In order to ensure high quality reproduction, we will require larger versions of the winning photos. Participants must be able to submit a high-resolution version of their photograph upon request. 

Editing: All photos must be your original work. Collage, cropping, and use of software such as Photoshop is permitted.

For More Information:

Visit the Official Webpage of the Penn Institute for Urban Research 2019 photo contest


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